President & CEO, Fashion Group International, Inc

Creative Director, Atelier Cillian

BIO: A British-American, Stephen Mikhail spent his life split between both countries. From a young age, he could be found painting and drawing opulent scenes and portraits of historical figures. When he wasn’t playing explorer outdoors, he would always have a pencil or oil pastels in hand.

The suppressive religious atmosphere of his Catholic upbringing forced Stephen’s mind to escape into daydreams, whilst the religious mythology was endlessly intriguing and thought-provoking. Stumbling across the subject matter in books and in film, Stephen developed a fascination with sex and human anatomy around age 7 when he used to sneak books home filled with nude statues and paintings so he could draw them himself in his own interpretation. He can still remember how forbidden it felt.

Stephen’s penchant for art and creativity led to an interest in fashion and he started pursuing internships at the age of 17, with stints at Catherine Malandrino and Diane von Furstenberg in New York before going on to work under Alexander McQueen in London. Subsequently, he made the early decision that he wanted free reign over his own line. He started in womenswear at the age of 19 and garnered success dressing noteworthy names from Paris Hilton to Jane Fonda.

Atelier Cillian was conceptualised as an amalgamation of Stephen’s past experiences and the imagery and ideas that inspired him from the time he was a child. From religion to sexuality, to his British-American background, Stephen pulls endless inspiration from such subjects and they inform his unique take on menswear.

INSTAGRAM: @stephenmikhail

Q and A with FGI President and CEO, Maryanne Grisz

What do you value most in a friendship? A wicked sense of humour.

What’s your proudest moment? Being invited to join CFDA.

What’s the best part of your job? To be able to bring my vision to fruition and to collaborate with spectacularly creative people!

What’s your biggest fear? To live without sense of purpose

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten? Anything at the hawkers when I lived in Singapore.

What’s next for you in your career? To branch out into more casual categories to show more range and capture new audiences.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud? A reel on @americasgotnotalent

Who or what in your life brings you the most joy? My dogs, Kingsley and Wellington!

How do you spend your day, or what does an ordinary day look like for you? Waking up, walking my dogs, caffeinating, gym, checking emails, creative development, some form of cardio, seeing friends in the evening, meditation before bed

What approach would you take differently if you had to build a business from scratch today? I’d exercise more restraint in collection size!

What is your favorite quote of all time, and why? “You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.” -to live with abandon is the most freeing thing one can ever do. Living life, trying new things, and making mistakes build experience and character and give you some wonderfully entertaining stories to tell.

What book/s will you recommend that everyone should read once in their lives? The Picture of Dorian Gray

How do you maintain a work-life balance? I don’t, not explicitly at least! Creation is what nourishes me. I follow my intuition to decide when is the right or wrong time to do something and go from there.

What are the biggest challenges you faced in your career and how did you handle them? Realising that you can’t take everything (or almost anything) personally has been the key to my happiness (and sanity)

What is the best advice someone ever gave you? If you’re trying to change something, don’t follow the path most travelled. Doing something repetitive and expecting a different outcome results in madness.

Who inspires you the most and why? Thom Browne! He has managed to create his own world, defiant of what everyone asked of him in the beginning. He has been unrelenting in pursuit of his vision and turned it into a truly global phenomenon on his own terms.

What’s the next thing you’re going to do in life? Once the brand is really thriving, I can’t wait to explore the world of fragrance. Anyone who knows me can tell you how obsessed I am with scent. I want my own little alchemy lab!

Related Articles